Simona Halep of Romania, ranked No. 2 in the world and seeded No. 2 at the BNP Paribas Open, didn’t want to compete without having a coach at her side this season. But after going solo for a while, she’s discovering it has its advantages.
Halep won her only Grand Slam title, the 2018 French Open, with Darren Cahill coaching her. When Cahill decided to relinquish his role late last year in order to spend more time with his family, she turned to Thierry van Cleemput. That didn’t work out, and they recently parted ways.
That sequence of events led Halep to “cheat” before a recent match in Dubai. She’d had trouble sleeping and felt tired when her alarm sounded at 8 a.m., so she slept in for two hours. She then dressed, had breakfast, and went to play her match without her usual preparations. She won, but she wouldn’t have turned off the alarm if a coach had been overseeing her schedule. “It’s never easy without a coach. At this level it’s nearly impossible,” she said on Wednesday. “But for a little bit of time it’s also nice to be alone.”
Halep, who will begin play here on Friday against Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic, said she’s not in discussions with coaching candidates but hiring someone could be a matter of time. “I miss the voice next to me. I miss the advice,” she said. “I miss also the fact that someone is always behind you or to give you advice. But the rest I think it’s pretty similar. I am a professional and I am trying to do the things even if the coach is not there.”
Victoria Azarenka, who was off the tour for a while because of a custody dispute over her young son, defeated fellow Belarusian Vera Lapko 6-2, 6-3 in a first-round match and will face No. 10 seed Serena Williams on Friday. Azarenka won the 2016 BNP Paribas Open title by defeating Williams. Both are two-time champions here. … Also of note, 17-year-old wild card Amanda Anisimova of New Jersey defeated Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia 6-0, 6-4 to set up a second-round match against No. 16 Elise Mertens of Belgium. … Sofia Kenin, 20, of the U.S. outlasted Yafan Wang of China 1-6, 7-5, 6-4.
Marcos Giron of Thousand Oaks, who won the 2014 NCAA championship while at UCLA, earned a berth in the main draw by defeating No. 24 seed Miomir Kecmanovic 6-7 (3), 7-5, 7-6 (4) in a qualifying match that lasted 2 hours and 36 minutes. Giron, ranked No. 217 in the world, will face Jeremy Chardy of France, who is ranked 37th in the world.
Thursday’s featured matches
Felix Auger-Aliassime vs. Cameron Norrie, 11 a.m
Venus Williams vs. Andrea Petkovic, not before 12:30 p.m.
Sam Querrey vs. Matteo Berrettini, after Williams-Petkovic match
Reilly Opelka vs. Leonardo Mayer, not before 8 p.m.
Christian McHale vs. Maria Sakkari, not before 8 p.m.
Monica Puig vs. Evgeniya Rodina, 2:45 p.m.
Follow Helene Elliott on Twitter @helenenothelen